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Monday, April 5, 2010

The Hypocrisy and Absurdity of Jim Spiegel author of The Making of an Atheist

Jim Spiegel's new book, The Making of an Atheist: How Immorality Leads to Unbelief, has received a lot of publicity on the blogosphere. Virtually every Christian apologetics blogger and many atheist bloggers have had a post reviewing the book.

The book essentially says that atheists don't believe in God because of their sinful rebellion, following Paul's comment in Romans 1:18-19 that unbelievers suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them . Ignoring the fact that in context Paul is talking about polytheists who worship idols (not atheists), Spiegel believes that the passage teaches that atheists really know about God but refuse to acknowledge him because of their sin and rebellion. This is a common ploy used by Christian apologists who want to argue that the only reason one would not believe in God is because he or she doesn't want to submit to him. Or, if a person like me who once believed in the Christian God turns away into unbelief, its because he really just wanted to have free reign to sin.

I am not going to deal with Spiegel's specific argument because I find it insulting and condescending. The truth is that many do not believe, and many who used to believe don't any longer, because they find the claims of Christianity to be intellectually indefensible.

What I want to point out in this post is Spiegel's hypocrisy and his absurdity. On his blog, he has a post entitled, God Judges Animals?. In the post, he says that he and his wife have practiced a “cruelty-free diet” for more than a decade. He says: it’s the least we can do to avoid moral complicity with the factory farming system in our country, which is so horribly inhumane to cows, pigs, and chickens. He continues: We’re hardly radicals, but the little we do is aimed at honoring what we regard as a biblical duty of compassion toward animals. There are numerous Scriptural passages that speak to the moral significance of our treatment of animals..

I wonder if Dr. Spiegel has never read Leviticus or the other OT passages that command animal sacrifices? Was this slaughterhouse religion of his showing compassion to the lambs and goats? It seems that his God took delight in the blood-letting. Moreover, the burning of the fat of the animals was said to be a pleasant aroma to the LORD. I tend to think that Spiegel may be guilty of a little hypocrisy here.

To add absurdity to his hypocrisy, Spiegel says that on the basis of Genesis 9:5, God will judge the animals. Apparently, he believes that animals are moral agents. He writes:
What is consistent in each translation I’ve seen is a sense of something like moral culpability and judgment. Now some folks could read too much into this and erroneously infer that animals are on the same moral plane as humans. Clearly, we can’t run to that extreme given the unique standing of human beings as divine image bearers (cf. Gen. 1:27). Still, it seems noteworthy that God will judge animals in this regard (and that God would make special note of this in Scripture). This appears to be one more biblical reinforcement of the moral significance of animals.

I am not making this up. Dr. Spiegel apparently believes that animals are moral agents who face judgment from their creator. Its amazing how belief in a holy book can make even Ph.D. philosophers state such absurdities. I guess once you sacrifice your intellect to accept a book written by bronze age sheepherders as divinely authoritative, nothing is absurd. And, yet he maintains that unbelievers have no intellectual reasons for rejecting the God of the Bible?


  1. Is this possible proof that to obtain a PhD, one doesn't need reasoning or logic, but just raw brainpower to memorize and recall lots of data (especially from places like BJU)? That is exactly how I got my ThB . . .

    I will not read this book, but just the title is absurd enough to put me off. The implication that immorality (which I construe to be different than unbelief or rebellion) was why I stopped being a believer, should not even be dignified by a response. But here is one anyway: I actually think there is less immorality in my life now than there was before my de-conversion! I still don't/can't get drunk, never smoked weed, never had an affair, etc. I judge people a hell of lot less than I used to as a christian. A LOT of pastors have it way over me in terms of immorality!

    But then, people like Spiegel, and other christians I know, think they know what we ex-believers think, and what are motives are. The plain fact is, they find it impossible that someone could stop believing in christianity (albeit THEIR version) simply through rational inquiry, thinking, and examination. Maybe admitting such holds implications that for them are simply too terrifying: that they too could one day stop believing!

  2. God will judge animals? What complete and utter poppycock!

  3. I posted the following comment on his site that is awaiting approval:

    Jim said: There are numerous Scriptural passages that speak to the moral significance of our treatment of animals.

    I think you need to do a better study of this. I welcome your assessment of this chapter on the Bible and animals.

    As far as Genesis 9:5ff goes, context, context, context:

    5 And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man.

    6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man,
    by man shall his blood be shed;
    for in the image of God
    has God made man.

    Gordon Wenham in his commentary on Genesis 1-15 for Word Press says:

    “Divine retribution is threatened on wild animals who kill men. Exodus 21:28-29 illustrates this principle by proscribing that an ox which gores a man to death should be executed.” p. 193.

    This is not about a final judgment but about a here and now judgment, especially since the Hebrews did not have a conception about a final judgment yet. And it’s not about God killing such an animal, but a command that humans kill such an animal. We do this with untamed dogs who maul another human being, you see, because its owner did not properly train him to be a good dog.

    You see, that was easy.

  4. John,

    I agree. To hold that animals will be judged is ludicrous and yet Jim has the audacity to say no one would refuse to believe in God for intellectual reasons. If his blog is an example of his intellect (and I usally try to be kind), then he really has no basis to evaluate the intellectual objections against his faith.

  5. Well, they were destroyed in the Flood, so it makes sense from a consistency standpoint.

    How far down the hierarchy of animals will judgment extend? Will only warm-blooded animals participate? Vertebrates only? Or will segmented worms, sea urchins and plankton also have to give an account of their lives?

    I also wonder why plants get off the hook? Poison ivy has a lot to answer for.

  6. Steve,

    Thanks! I laughed out loud when I read your comment. Yes, poison ivy does have a lot to answer for.

  7. On a serious note, I think it's admirable that he has a concern for animal suffering. It's reminiscent of Schweitzer's Reverence for Life ethic. I'm not a vegetarian, but I love animals and appreciate people who have tender hearts toward them.

  8. I listened to Spiegel's interview at Common Sense Atheism. He is a good example of the intellectural suicide you mentioned concerning christian thought during your interview Ken.

    I feel he may end up in the same place both you and John have landed. He seemed very uncomfortable trying to defend his atheist is immoral thesis. I think he is probably trying to maintain his career and really doesn't believe in his ideas.

  9. I posted a review/critique of his book here

    Somehow it became the top rated review of his book on amazon. Check it out. I think you may enjoy it (:

  10. Andrew,

    Thanks. I actually had already read your review. It was very good. I would be very interested in hearing your story. If you want to post it here or email it to me in a longer format, that would be great.

    pulliam at mail dot com

  11. Very good post! I read Spiegel's reply to you and Mr. Loftus and I find it sad and amusing all at the same time how he rationalizes his position. I recently finished a chapter by chapter rebuttal of the book if you or anyone else might be interested.

    I'm curious to hear him explain his argument in the Common Sense Atheism interview. Should be interesting!